Publishers of books that change lives

Book of the Month May 2016: The Grass Was Always Browner

Trans-Tasman author Sacha Jones loves the wry quirkiness that is distinct to Australian humour. She has used it liberally throughout her memoir recounting her adolescence in Frenchs Forest, Sydney, when all she wanted was to be Russian and a ballerina, not a regular girl in an ordinary boring suburb with a fake forest.

In this interview, she talks to Jennifer Little at Massey University, University of New Zealand.author of The Grass Was Always Browner

Creative writing papers at Massey University helped Sacha Jones realise the numerous notebooks she had filled with stories of her improbable Sydney childhood, might become a book for publication.

The Grass Was Always Browner (Finch Publishing, Australia) – published in May – is a colourful, comic memoir about growing up in the seventies, the middle of three close-together children with two impractical, over-the-hill parents in northern Sydney.

Overcoming various challenges, including chronic asthma and being the wrong build for ballet, Jones goes on to become something of a ballet star, winning a host of scholarships and competitions to become a principal dancer in the Sydney City Ballet. She even dances the lead in Giselle at the Sydney Opera House. All the while her father disapproves, describing ballet as; “a selfish, frivolous pursuit, too focused on appearances.” He, by contrast, is trying to save the Third World by writing a book in economic theory.

Read the rest of the feature here.

Staff Pick: Book of He

What a pleasure it was to work on this book with Peter! I must have seen each cartoon at least 30 times and I still Book of He coverllaugh every single time. Wry and sophisticated, with a touch of melancholy, this collection of cartoons is really an excuse to have a good laugh for half an hour.

Samantha Miles

Staff pick: Becoming a Mother

Becoming a Mother: A journey of uncertainty, transformation and falling in love by Leisa Stathis

I was very moved by Leisa’s approach in this book – a deeply compassionate view of how women experience early motherhood. Some of the stories were powerful for me, particularly the one where she witnessed a new mother playing attentively with her toddler – and (after some indecision) deciding to congratulate her for being such a caring mum. It was a tearful moment for that mother – as it was the first time anyone had said what a good job she was doing.

The joy in this book is knowing the gift it will be for so many new mothers. At its heart, Becoming a Mother is about mothers allowing themselves the opportunity of getting to know their new child. In the midst of all the turmoil of her new life there is so much for a mother to take in, especially if she is also struggling with sleep deprivation, underconfidence and social isolation.

Yet Leisa encourages new mothers to resist the temptation to get everything right … and to allow themselves to help for new mothersbe a ‘good enough’ mother instead. She shows us why this is such a vital time for the mother to become attuned to her baby, and how for some it can be a struggle to bond.

This book has passages of profound power and deep empathy with new mums. She writes: ‘In the moment of birth it is not only a baby that is born, but a mother too’. Leisa encourages the reader to permit a little compassion towards themselves as they encounter the pressures and concerns of the first year. In Becoming a Mother she helps women look into what the relationship is they are building with their new baby ­– one that can be so rewarding if it is free of negativity, overwhelm or perfectionism.

Rex Finch

 

Staff Pick: Elvis and Me

For me, reading Elvis and Me contained marvellous surprises. Yes, there’s the complex relationship between the two central characters – Elvis a grumpy neglected ex-racehorse, and Gillian a musician needing more fulfilment. But what captured me were the other, unexpected, layers.

In essence, this story is really about the courage and determination to pursue a dream. It’s also about how the unfolding of events often reveals to us something unrecognised within our own spirit. What is our real passion? What do we discover about ourselves when we decide to pursue our dream? What happens when a long-held dream turns into another wholly unexpected passion?

In Gillian’s case, beyond the fears and struggles, this discovery is something to celebrate. Elvis is for Gillian more than a rescue project. She recognises in him a connection with the passions and the life-force that are central to her successful career in music. By owning Elvis, she chooses to live her dream – not just have it on hold.

Throughout the story, Gillian introduces us to many delightful characters, both two-legged and four-legged. We witness unending sums of money disappearing in vet fees, agistment, feed, trainers and endless medical work.

This wonderfully told story presents many lessons, the legacy of mistakes, doubts and struggles. Here are two: How to decide whose advice not to follow; and how to accept the reality that owning a horse means really means that the horse actually owns you!

Thank you, Gillian, for an uplifting and most unexpected ending.

Ten Questions with Lana Penrose

Care For Kids published a feature 22 April on depression, especially as it affects mums. It included this Q&A with Lana Penrose, depression survivor and author of The Happiness Quest:

1. Tell us about yourself in 10 words or less

I’m an everyday human being doing her best to care about other human beings. (You’ll notice I Lana Penrosealso can’t count.)

Read more

Would you recognise the symptoms of exercise addiction?

One of the five key signs is that you have to exercise every day to feel normal. To discover the rest, read Kasey Edwards full article in Daily Life, in which she chats to Vanessa Alford.

Vanessa Alford

Vanessa Alford

Vanessa wrote her memoir Fit not Healthy after acknowledging her exercise addiction. She hopes her book can help others.

 

Tapping for calm to enhance your loving relationship

Louise GabrielI’ve always been interested in what attracts people to one another. When I’ve asked men what made them choose their partner and how they knew she was the One, the answer I hear over and over again Is “she was normal”. I know, not quite the romantic accolades I was expecting, but fascinating nevertheless.

Digging a little deeper I found that when women react strongly to things and go on the attack over a missed phone call, a night with the boys, forgetting their six week anniversary, men start to question the feelings they have for them. And it can stop a budding love story in its tracks. It sounds shallow but you’ll find that men are incredibly sensitive to this sort of thing. Why? Because you’re the person they were hoping they could relax with. And spending their life tiptoeing around their significant other isn’t their idea of fun.

So if you tend to be a bit “jumpy” or you have been hurt in the past you need to ensure your brain is wired for a more peaceful vibe, with your fight/flight response turned down if you want to enjoy the relationship of your dreams. Love shines best in a peaceful heart. This isn’t about excusing bad behaviour. This is about giving your future person-and yourself-a break.

Tapping can help with this. It sends a calming signal to the brain. When you unfire and unwire your “relationships are risky” pathways, and wire in “love is safe and a very good idea” you minimise the sort of reaction that has prospective loves running for cover. It allows for positive neural change and it makes you a lot happier and less reactive. And the best place to start is at the beginning, accepting yourself even while you’re still feeling a little jumpy or unsure. Watch Unsingle’s Tapping Into Love” video to get started. You have nothing to lose but those tricky, sticky blocks to love.

LOUISE GABRIEL is the author of Unsingle: The art and science of finding true love. Available in paperback and ebook from 1 December 2014.

Why is there a link between the ability to breastfeed and postnatal depression?

The results of a major study of over 10,000 mothers by Cambridge University revealed that those who breastfeed are 50% less likely to suffer from postnatal depression (PND) than those who don’t. The study also found that those women most at risk of developing PND are those who plan to breastfeed but are unable to do so.

Nicole HighetDr Nicole Highet, founder of COPE in Melbourne, the Centre for Perinatal Excellence in Melbourne, agrees with the researchers that there is a complex relationship between a mother’s intention to breastfeed, her ability to breastfeed and PND. The researchers surmised that the the increase in PND may be attributed to a lack of hormonal activity associated with breastfeeding.

While Dr Highet says this may be so – but cautions further research is required to confirm a link – she emphasises that a really important factor in increase in PND amongst mums who can’t breastfeed is the direct impact of her disappointment, her feelings of grief, and the feelings of failure on her emotional and mental health. You can read Dr Highet’s full post here.

Guilt Free Bottle FeedingMothers who can’t breastfeed for whatever reason are often burdened by a terrible guilt that they are not doing the best by their children because the ‘breast is best’ message implies that formula-fed babies may turn out fat, stupid and unhealthy. Dr Highet agrees with journalit Madeleine Morris, the author of a new book called Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding, that what the research actually shows is that while breast milk is best if circumstances allow, formula-fed babies can grow up to be happy, health and smart. The close examination Madeleine undertook of the research in this area for her book shows that the differences in quality nutrition provided are minimal. She goes through the research in some details in her book.